You may already know that I’m no fan of bamboo.
The trouble with urging people to dig up all their bamboo and throw it on the nearest bonfire is that if you happen to be the gardener, you’re the one who gets to dig it up. And if you’ve ever tried to dig up even the smallest hawser-like root of a bamboo you’ll know this is The Job From Hell.
Since I have a number of clients who have bamboo in their gardens – and therefore require me to do something about it – it quickly became time for some rapid backtracking.
So while I still won’t have the stuff anywhere near my own garden and am seriously tempted to pour petrol – or at least a little well-aimed glyphosate – on pots of bamboo waiting for sale to unsuspecting customers at various garden centres across the land, if it’s already in your garden there’s only one way to go: Proper Maintenance.
The trouble is, bamboo is generally touted as a low-maintenance or even no-maintenance plant. Even if you’re going to be wilfully blind to its thuggish habits, if you don’t spend at least a little time each year sprucing them up a bit they end up looking like this:
This is a Phyllostachys nigra in the back garden of one of my clients which has never been touched, like most of the ones I come across. As you can see, it doesn’t just behave like a thug – it looks like one too.
So – you take out the thinnest of the canes, right down to the ground, leaving just the nice thick well-coloured ones. Then you remove the suckers migrating out from the main clump, as ruthlessly as possible, followed by those annoying canes that flop out to the side too much. After that, trim down the tops to the height you want – in this case there was only one stem that needed shortening as for some reason known only to itself it had headed skywards and left all the others behind. After all that, you end up with something like this:
Actually I think I overdid it a bit on removing the arching branches – this is a little upright for my liking, though I’m not sure I had much of a choice really. But anyway, it’ll start leaning outwards again soon (the overriding principle of bamboo is to revert to the most troublesome way of growing at the earliest possible opportunity). The client and I also agreed that this is a bamboo in desperate need of some company (there used to be a swimming pool on that circle).
But what we both loved – and the whole point of the exercise – is this:
Aren’t they lovely? Strong, slim, elegant canes of near-black, and you can actually see them now. Not only did I remove the messy ones in between, I also stripped away the leaves up to about a third of the way up. Now, that’s a bamboo I can see the point of growing.